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December 15, 2015

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New access equipment guidance from SAEMA

‘Using permanently installed suspended access equipment’ is a new guidance document from SAEMA, the Specialist Engineering & Maintenance Association that focuses on raising standards in the façade access industry. It covers everything from the responsibilities of the duty holder through to safe use and statutory record keeping. Chris Kendall takes a closer look.

Many modern buildings such as shopping malls and office blocks have large and inaccessible areas that require routine cleaning and maintenance. Access to these areas is increasingly provided by trolleys, platforms and gantries which are permanently installed to provide a safe place of work for maintenance personnel.

The new guidance document makes it clear that all ‘in-service’ activities involving suspended access equipment should be carried out in compliance with BS 6037. According to SAEMA, failure to comply with BS 6037 could render duty holders liable to prosecution.

In addition to signposting the relevant standards and regulations, the document also covers the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), rigging platforms, dealing with breakdowns and malfunctions, and what procedures need to be followed upon completion of an installation.

Commenting about the new document, SAEMA’s Trevor Fennell said: “It’s essential that projects of this type are carried out to the highest standards in accordance with established best practice. This new document sets out to ensure that these standards are fully understood and complied with in order to keep operatives safe.

“There can be no room for complacency when they are suspended hundreds of metres above the ground.”

As part of an ongoing communication process, SAEMA recently hosted a meeting between its members and those organisations – architects, designers, consulting engineers and contractors – involved in specifying and managing façade access equipment and systems. Also in attendance were representatives from the local authority, insurance and trade association sectors.

Three things were on the agenda. First, to reiterate the need for developers, architects and contractors to engage with SAEMA members at the earliest possible stages of a project’s life to determine and implement the best access solution.

Second, to raise awareness and understanding of the crucial role of the duty holder under the relevant regulations and standards.

Third, to consider the viability of producing a project planning template to assist specifiers and decision makers in arriving at the safest and most effective and efficient access solution.

Trevor Fennell commented: “Many of the access consultants employed by a developer and/or his architectural design team continue to specify ever more complex suspended access solutions with unique features and duties. This regularly results in the need for a bespoke, project-by-project approach to the design of access systems.

“It’s crucial to get involved at the earliest possible stages of a building’s life. Leaving it late can miss the opportunity to employ standard products that have been developed over many years and have a proven track record when it comes to providing safe, user-friendly and cost-effective access.

“Developments in façade access systems and equipment will continue to be driven by advances in architecture, façade technology and building services. The space available to accommodate a building maintenance unit (BMU) will increasingly be at a premium, which will directly impact on the complexity, size and weight of the equipment. However, safety must and will remain the overriding priority.

“As for the role of duty holders, recent events have only served to reinforce our view that many duty holders – including some health and safety professionals – are either confused by, or simply not aware of, their duties and responsibilities under the law. Ignorance is no defence and can leave the duty holder liable to prosecution. And as for the template – we’re working on that as a priority!”

Chris Kendall is the Communications Officer at SAEMA. For more information visit www.saema.org

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